Slain teen leaves powerful legacy

Before her death, Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School shootings left a very powerful message of hope.

“I have this theory that if one person would go out of their way to show some compassion, it will start a chain reaction of the same,” she wrote in a school essay shortly before she died in the spring on 1999.

Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. From this essay and six of Scott’s journals, an assembly program was formed named Rachel’s Challenge.

The program is based on how Scott lived her life before she died.

Students viewed the powerful presentation during a four-day period, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 at various schools across the City.

Rachel’s Challenge program was brought to Red Deer students as a result of the powerful effect it had on staff last year during a teacher’s convention.

“Every student in Red Deer Public from grades five to 12 have seen Rachel’s Challenge,” said Jim Clevette, principal of Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

The presenter, Adam Northam, was a friend of Scott and her family. Northam can attest to Scott’s kindness and he has been speaking to students on behalf of Rachel’s Challenge for several years.

“She shared with everyone who read the story, how she chose to live her life. She challenged us to think about the way that we live ours,” said Northam.

The program focuses on five challenges taken from Scott’s essay. It emphasizes a need for kindness and compassion.

The first challenge is to eliminate prejudice in schools and work places.

The second challenge is to dare to dream. Students were encouraged to have goals and keep a journal. The third challenge is to choose positive influences and role models. The fourth challenge is to use kind words and to reach out to other students.

“All it takes is a simple smile, or a little act of kindness that make all the difference in their lives,” he said.

The fifth point is to start a chain reaction.

“Today Rachel’s chain reaction has caused a ripple all over the world,” said Northam.

Her father and stepmother founded Rachel’s Challenge. Immediately after her death, her father began speaking to crowds using Scott’s journals and drawings.

Today, more than 30 speakers, including her brother and sisters, honour Rachel’s life by speaking to students, parents and companies.

Over the past 11 years since the tragedy, Rachel’s Challenge has shared their message with over 13 million students.

At the end of the presentation, parents and students were encouraged to sign banners, committing to following the five challenges.

“You have the sudden power with your words and actions to make a positive difference in the lives of those around you,” said Northam. “We forget that so much good can come out of such tragedy.”